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A lesson in leadership

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A while back, I spent some time in the company of some of the best business speakers in Australia and for that matter, the world. The reason was that I was the master of ceremonies in the Thrive in Business seminars held at Sydney Olympic Park.

I liked the parallel between sporting and business champions and they were there. In particular, I was wrapped with the mums who came along with their children in the blinding rain — anyone who can handle kids, especially through business lectures, will find building a great business a piece of cake.

One of the speakers was Michael Gerber, who is famous for the book E-Myth Revisited, which has sold over 1 million copies and counting!

Apart from his core lecture on putting systems into your business to make it easier to run and ultimately to sell, he did a session on leadership. It was a little more esoteric than most of his usual stuff, but he invited the audience to simply not be what they are, but to become what they had to be — a leader.

He suggested that once you get ‘there’, you would look back and wonder why you didn’t get it when you weren’t a leader. Sometimes you have to actually walk the pathway to leadership and become a leader to fully understand what it means to be one.

Let me give you an example of how this relates to running a business. You might have employees who are giving their very best in your business and you value them enormously. They take on responsibility, work long hours, and look after clients or customers – you couldn’t ask for more.

From time to time they may even take on a fair bit of stress from the business. But they’re not the leader of the business. They’re not privy to the multitude of stresses involved in being a business owner – such as cash flow, threats of litigation, other staff issues and the continual risk management process across all divisions of the business.

Only the business owner is subject to these types of stresses – and he or she can’t reveal to staff how these issues might be affecting them – and the small business leader definitely can’t take sick or stress leave easily.

Being a leader means you take on certain characteristics that put you out in front.

A while back on an election day I saw something about leadership I won’t forget, which I believe tells us something about proven leaders.

On the way into the voting, I saw former New South Wales Premier, Nick Greiner, giving out how-to-vote cards for Malcolm Turnbull.

Over the years, especially when Greiner was Premier, we didn’t always see eye to eye on issues and as an opinionated commentator, I’m sure he would’ve loved to have sorted out my views on life.

However, we always maintained a very civilised relationship whenever we met. Seeing him out there helping someone else as former leader of this state was a good look.

Some moments later, as I waited on the queue to vote, along he came with an elderly lady who was using walking frame. He asked the waiting voters if they could step aside to allow this woman, whose eyesight was waning, to have easy access to the booths. Another good look for Nick, I thought.

Looking closer, I realised that the lady in question was a former neighbour of mine, Mary, who I hadn’t seen for awhile. My wife and I told Nick that we knew Mary and that we’d take over and he thanked us as he had left his spot where he was giving out cards.

After helping Mary and then walking home with her, I returned to the voting venue to let Nick in on a secret. Upon greeting him, I informed him that the woman he so kindly helped would have been one of the most entrenched Labor voters in Sydney!

Hearing this he laughed, but said that he knew it. “When she came up to me, the first thing she asked was if I could show her how to vote Labour,” he recalled.

We laughed and as I walked away, I felt good about the kind of democracy we have in Australia and I was reminded of the qualities of leaders. They must be able to relate to those who they want to lead – irrespective if the people in question are committed to their cause.

A leader will have stand out qualities, which makes it easy to follow them. I learned a lot about leadership that day from a former premier.

Work on your business, not in it. To learn how, book a complimentary business assessment today with a Switzer Business Coach.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Monday, December 14, 2009

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